Court tosses county ban on probationers using medical pot

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Counties may not ban people on probation or parole from using prescription cannabis if they are registered in Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court said that people holding a valid medical marijuana card are immune from “arrest, prosecution or penalty in any manner” under state law, even if they are under a court’s supervision.

“In Pennsylvania, as elsewhere, the political branch has decided to permit patients — including probationers — to use medical marijuana for specified, serious medical conditions, upon a physician’s certification,” the court said in its opinion.

Lebanon County’s court system had sought to prohibit medical marijuana use by people on probation and parole, though it later said that exemptions would be granted to patients who could prove that medical marijuana was a “medical necessity.”

The county’s policy said that because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the court and probation department “should not knowingly allow violations of the law to occur.”

While expressing unease in light of the federal prohibition, the Supreme Court said that Lebanon County had no right to ban medical marijuana considering the state Legislature has authorized its use.

The ruling noted that Congress prohibits the Justice Department from using federal dollars to prevent states from implementing their own medical marijuana laws, which it said “evinces a respect for the core principle of federalism recognizing dual sovereignty between the tiers of government.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which sued Lebanon County’s court system on behalf of three medical marijuana patients, said the court’s decision applies to every county in the state.

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